Monday, March 31, 2014

Pew: Key Indicators of News Use

The PewResearch American Journalism Project released its State of the News Media report for 2013 last week.  The report suggests a news industry in transition, and news audiences starting to shift their patterns of news use as they discover the value of newer news delivery options.  Here's some highlights-

The decline of print
The newspaper industry has been fighting, unsuccessfully, declining subscription and readership numbers for decades.  Even with liberalized definitions for subscribers and the growth in usage of newspapers digital offerings, they managed only a 3% increase in total readership in the last NAA report.  

The outlook's even worse for News Magazines' print editions.  Newsstand sales have dropped 43% since 2008 (although subscriptions have remained steady). Two of the major US news magazines have abandoned print for online, and even with the significantly lower costs of online are struggling to survive.

Readership also continued to decline for the top alternative weeklies, although at a slower pace.

Broadcast & Cable News
The broadcast networks tended to hang on to their aggregate news audiences, although differences continued to exist among the big three performances.  On aggregate, audiences for both the evening and morning news shows grew slightly, but remained within the range of audience numbers over the last few years.

Cable news network audiences declined slightly in 2013, but were coming off a Presidential election year (so no real surprise there).  2013 was more notable for the continuing fall of CNN, whose ratings have been hitting 20 year lows in recent weeks, leaving CNN in the cable news ratings basement.  MSNBC, lacking a significant Republican to bash, dropped a quarter of its primetime audience in 2013.  Fox News Channel retained its ratings dominance in ratings, and continue to reap the benefits, generating almost twice the revenues of CNN, and four times the revenues of MSNBC.

Local newscasts from broadcast stations started to gain audiences in 2013, building on the growing morning news programming, and greater use of mid-day and afternoon time slots for expanded news offerings.  With more stations doing news programming before the main evening newscast, and extending the time for those shows, employment opportunities in local news improved slightly - one of the few bright spots in traditional journalism.

The transformation of the news marketplace is being driven by digital. In 2013, 82% of Americans reported getting news on their desktops or laptops, and more than half (54%) reported getting news through their mobile devices.  Online is where most people go first for news.  Digital operations of newspapers saved readership numbers, and many (but not all) outlets found online subscriptions a growing source of revenues in an otherwise declining market. Digital advertising dollars remain the fastest growing segment (soon to surpass TV), although the share earned by traditional news outlets is shrinking and is unlikely to replace print and TV advertising losses.  2013, and the last few years, have seen a surge in the use of commercial online-only news outlets, other online news sources, and social media by audiences.  outlets.

More transformational has been the developing role that social media plays in the news process.  News users are increasingly involved in disseminating news (sharing reports), discussing it with others, and contributing content (primarily photos and videos) to developing stories.

Source: Key Indicators in Media & News, a report of the PewResearch Journalism Project (part of State of the News Media 2014 study)

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